If you are here, you already heard how great Cities: Skylines is and you want to know more. Lucky for you, I intend to guide you through basics of starting a city and help introduce you to the basics before you start your first city. If you are a console user, this guide will be useful for you as well as I intend to go through vanilla game (game without any mods) first, and then introduce some advanced tips. So, let’s get started.
- Vanilla – a game without any custom made content
- Mod – a piece of code that is added to the game which expands games capabilities
- Asset – any 3D model that can be used to decorate and build in game (building, prop, vehicle, park, decal pack…)
- LUT – color correction packs. They are used to replace the games default color spectrum to any other colour set
- Theme – a pack of textures and settings which can be used to replace default textures, change sky box and lighting
So you bought your copy of Cities: Skylines and want to try it out. If you just open the game and start building, it will be fun for a while but then you get a creative block, problems start emerging and your enthusiasm starts declining. Luckily, you read this article and you will now know how to approach the game. Cities: Skylines is a creativity tool and this means you have to have an idea of what you want to build. Not all of us are Architects or city planners but we do have to have at least some vague idea of what we want to make on our designated plot of land. This is the best place to start if you want to build a successful city and show magnificent screen shots of it on different forums and groups.
The best start is to open the game and start building. It contradicts with what I said in previous paragraph, but bear with me. Let the game lead you through tutorials and get to know the game mechanics before you go to any advanced planing and tools. It is best to turn on “Unlimited money” mod at this point because if you have no experience with this game, you will soon go bankrupt, take a loan and the city will be buried before you got to test all of the tools. If this happened to you in SimCity4, game would run you for a senator and give the city to someone more successful (it’s supposed to be an insult). I’m recommending this approach because you get familiar with the tools and game’s capabilities which will make it easier for you to express your creativity in the way you want. At this point, don’t use any of the mods besides “Unlimited money”. Get to know the game and its mechanics first so you can search for a tool you need to build that highly detailed part of town or intersection you want.
WAIT, YOU MENTIONED MODS?
Another completely separate part of this game are mods. You can find them in Steam workshop organised by category, or you can search what you need through over 139 thousand of them(at the moment of writing this article). I would discourage you to go through the workshop at this point, as the game already has a lot of tools available from the start and it can get overwhelming for a beginner. If you already know about mods and how they work, if this is the first time you’re playing the game, bear in mind that not all of the mods and assets are compatible with your version of the game. Some are outdated and can cause problems including losing a saved game you worked on for days. For others, you have to have a certain DLC or, they are even dependant on other mods and/or assets. Pay special attention to the right side of the steam workshop page where you can find dependencies for mod/asset you want to use. And if you like it, don’t forget to give some love to the creators of the mod/asset as their role in this whole universe is greatly appreciated. Later on, you will find out how their contribution adds to the game to the point of “I can’t believe this an in game screenshot”. But, as I said, skip the workshop for now.
BUILDING YOUR FIRST CITY
Now you got the basic idea of how the game works and you have an idea what to make. Select a new map from the default ones or select one from the workshop. In this case, it’s ok to use workshop but pay attention to the requirements for the map. If it uses any dependency or a DLC you don’t have, DO NOT download the map as you won’t be able to play it. Sometimes when you load a map that was downloaded from workshop, you find no trees as you haven’t downloaded the required asset which creator used, so stay vanilla as much as possible. I don’t want to go into too much detail as I might cover the game basics in more detail later. Most important things to remember when starting with your first city are:
1. start with default game and let it lead you through tutorials. This means no mods for now. You can use unlimited money if you want to get the hang of game mechanics.
2. Pay attention to the RCI demand on the bottom of the screen. RCI demand are those three bars (green, blue and orange-ish) which represent Residential(green), Commercial(blue) and industrial(orange) demand. It’s wise to follow them.
3. Don’t build massive residential areas all at once unless you have good supply and coverage of crematoriums and/or graveyards. Many players have been complaining about death waves, myself included.
4. Start a simple map and get the hang of game mechanics until you realise what you want out of the game and how to do it. This is an ongoing process and many of us are still learning
5. Don’t be discouraged if your city fails. Many of us have destroyed a couple of cities before we got to the acceptable level of city building you see on pictures and videos on world wide web.
6. When you get the basics, you can start with couple of mods to expand your options, but don’t rush to this point. When you do reach this point, research for must have mod collection, and someone will post it for you.
Traffic is something that’s being debated since game came out and it’s not easy to make it right. Fortunately, we know lot more about traffic mechanics today, so if you need any advice, whether about traffic or general questions, don’t be afraid to ask. There are a lot of very helpful groups on the internet and I found out that Cities: Skylines groups are far more helpful than any other type of groups.
As this game came out March 2015, there are a lot of pages, groups, forums and videos revolving around this game but here are some of the most useful ones:
– Official Cities: Skylines page – Here you can check latest news and buy DLC’s and add-ons. They are very often on sale, so it’s worth checking regularly
– Steam workshop page – Here you can browse through over 139 thousand items posted in the workshop. I already said the most important thing about mods and assets earlier in this text, so I’ll skip that.
BUY IT OR NOT…AND WHICH ONE?
I know that a lot of people cannot afford to pay for their games, but if you really like something, it’s worth investing in it. This game can offer a lot and It’s really worth the money. At the time of writing this article, there are 15 additional packs and DLC’s combined – some payed, some free. Every time developers publish a new expansion, they also add loads of stuff for free in relation to the relevant expansion. It’s a lot of money all at once, but there’s no need to buy them all immediately. Just wait for sales.
If you have a limited budget, I would recommend you to buy base game, and then in this order:
1. Mass transit – adds a lot of traffic and public transportation options like ferries, monorails, additional roads and highways and lots more. In my opinion, this is the most valuable DLC
2. After Dark – expands on basic game by adding day/night cycle with some additional services and some new game mechanics
3. Green cities – expands the game with over 350 new assets and buildings combined, new services and Eco specialization. Shares the place with next one
4 Snowfall – adds winter into the game. Sadly, we cannot have dynamic season change in the game with current engine (no matter how much players want it) so they gave us this DLC. It contains permanent winter cities, adds trams and also new services and loads of options. Some people bought this expansion only to get the trams and you don’t have to play a winter city to have them. This DLC shares the place with the previous one, depending on how much you like snow and/or trams
5. Natural disasters – Adds disasters and scenarios to the game apart from other minor additions. It’s debatable to even buy this one, but if you like destroying what you made, go for it. The disasters are very well animated and they can have significant impact on your city depending on the magnitude of disaster. You won’t lose anything if you don’t buy it. I got it because of helicopter depots and scenarios and I keep the disasters off.
These are the official DLC that expand the game by adding content and new mechanics to the game and they are released by the developer. There are also some free expansions and smaller payed ones. There is also user created content: expansions released by developer which include work of talented individuals who play the game and contribute to the ever growing base of available content. They usually add more assets to the game and can be very useful: Art Deco (by Matt Crux), High – Tech buildings (by Mauro Vos) and European Suburbia (by Samantha Woods). Whatever you buy, you won’t go wrong as later you will probably use a lot more assets than original game has.
A fair warning: this game is very processor and RAM heavy so make sure you have at least 8 Gb RAM before you start playing this game – 16 is recommended. Also, DO NOT buy or play this game if you have 32 bit operating system as the base game takes over 4.5 Gb RAM just to start a city. Fortunately, game is supported under Linux so if you cannot afford 64 bit OS(by now I’m surprised if anyone even has 32 bit OS) you can get one of the free Linux distro’s and have dual boot. I would also recommend a SSD for this game as loading times can get really long depending on number of mods and assets you have. Yet another reason to avoid mods in the beginning.
From a console perspective, as soon as you buy the game, you will have no problems as game was optimised for Playstation 4 and Xbox One. As I previously mentioned, game is pretty heavy on hardware so don’t expect the same abilities you get from a PC. This doesn’t mean you won’t have fun, but you won’t be able to use mods and all of the expansions. At the time of writing this article, Snowfall was the only one available for consoles.
IN THE END…
It does matter. I hope these few guidelines helped you to chose the right combination for you and helped you avoid common beginner mistakes.
In future articles, I will guide you step by step on how to build and maintain cities. Also I will write about useful tips which can help you avoid common mistakes and what to do when you see an error displayed.
Looking forward to see your work on many forums and videos.
Distrita own experience
Google comparison footage: courtesy of Antonio Bernal